On Shabbat Parshat Veyetze (Dec. 2-3), the Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought hosted Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum of Jerusalem in conversation with Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik at Congregation Shearith Israel in New York.
As the oldest Spanish & Portuguese congregation in the United States, Shearith Israel was a fitting venue for Hassan-Nahoum, a religious woman of mixed Spanish & Portuguese and Moroccan heritage. Her father, Sir Joshua Abraham Hassan, was Gibraltar’s first chief minister, and her sister, Marlene Hassan Nahon, currently serves as a Gibraltarian member of parliament. At the age of 18, Hassan-Nahoum moved to London to study law at King’s College. Upon graduation, she joined the Honorable Society of Middle Temple, practicing law in England, and later served as campaign director at World Jewish Relief.
In 2001, during the Second Intifada, Hassan-Nahoum made the life-changing decision to emigrate to Israel with her family. In Israel, she served as a senior associate with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and founded her own international strategic communications firm, Message Experts. While advising a local Jerusalemite political group, Hassan-Nahoum became interested in politics. In 2016, she joined the Jerusalem City Council and was appointed Deputy Mayor in charge of tourism and foreign relations in 2018.
In partnership with Congregation Shearith Israel, the Straus Center invited the deputy mayor to speak about her career and vision for Jerusalem. After a melodic Kabbalat Shabbat prayer service, accompanied by a classically trained choir, Rabbi Soloveichik interviewed the deputy mayor at a congregational dinner. The deputy mayor emphasized her dedication to establishing peace between Israel and its neighbors, noting her role as a founding member of the ground-breaking UAE-Israel Business Council. She also shared her vision for developing Jerusalem into a high-tech center in the heart of Israel.
After dinner, Hassan-Nahoum gathered with the Straus Scholars for a private shabbat oneg, where she shared leadership tips and spoke about the challenges she has had to overcome in addressing the needs of Jerusalem’s mixed secular-Israeli, ultra-Orthodox and Palestinian community. She spotlighted newly developed projects designed to provide opportunities for ultra-Orthodox Jews and Palestinian women to build up professional and technological skills. Hassan-Nahoum also addressed students’ questions about her views on the recent Israeli election, the role of the rabbinate in Israel and the current American political climate.
On Shabbat morning, after services, Hassan-Nahoum joined Straus Scholars and Yeshiva University for a second interview conducted by Rabbi Soloveichik. She answered questions about interfaith dialogue, noting the meteoric rise of Christian pilgrimage to Jerusalem in recent years. She also addressed the controversy regarding Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount and spoke about her role in facilitating upcoming Yeshiva University programs in Israel.
“Deputy Mayor Hassan-Nahoum is strong in her convictions,” said Straus Scholar Daniel Ganopolsky (YC ’24). “Her straightforward honesty and enthusiasm are inspiring.”
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